158. Telegram From Secretary of State Vance to the Department of State and the White House1

Secto 14061. State for Christopher only. White House for Brzezinski. Subject: Secretary’s Meetings With the Israelis December 14.

1. I met this morning with Begin alone for about one-half hour and conveyed the message2 you and I discussed yesterday evening. We had a very frank talk. His response was tinged with sorrow. I suggest that no statements be issued by us until I return tomorrow afternoon and have a chance to look at them.

2. Following this we joined our groups which on the Israeli side consisted of the same large group of Israeli Ministers that were present yesterday. Begin led off by saying that he would call a special Cabinet meeting tomorrow morning in order to discuss the issues that we had brought with us from Cairo. He then asked Dayan to sum up the Israeli position at this point which Dayan did in these terms:

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(A) The Egyptian proposed interpretative note on Article VI (2), and the proposed linking between the exchange of ambassadors and West Bank/Gaza autonomy are unacceptable rpt unacceptable.

(B) On Article IV, the GOI feels that Sadat is putting the wrong construction on the present language. GOI fully accepts that each party should have the right to initiate a review of the provisions covered on this article. While the GOI does not accept Sadat’s proposal for a mandatory review in five years, it believes that the problem presented by this article can be resolved. (It is worth noting that Dayan said nothing about the Article VI (5) issue.)

(C) On the West Bank/Gaza letter, Israel believes this too can be resolved and is prepared to continue negotiations in an effort to find a formulation that is mutually acceptable.

3. The rest of the meeting was taken up by Begin allowing his Ministers to express their views. Burg and Sharon made statements, the latter being predictably negative and critical of the U.S. for “unfairly pressuring” Israel to make concessions.

4. I did get the feeling, however, that the Israelis were taking a somewhat less gloomy and totally negative view of the situation this morning. They are still adamantly opposed to linkage and the Egyptian note on Article VI, but there was more stress today on the areas that might be resolved.3

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Country File, Box 55, Middle East: Peace Talks Between Egypt and Israel, 11–12/78. Secret; Cherokee; Immediate; Nodis. Printed from a copy that indicates the original was received in the White House Situation Room. At the top of the telegram, Carter initialed “C,” indicating that he saw the document. Vance arrived in Israel on December 13.
  2. The text of Carter’s message has not been found. According to the President’s Daily Diary, Carter spoke with Vance on the telephone from noon to 12:11 p.m., December 13. (Carter Library, Presidential Materials) On December 13, Carter wrote in his personal diary that Vance reported that the treaty text which Vance had agreed with Sadat received “a very cold and negative reaction” in Israel. (Carter, White House Diary, p. 265)
  3. Before leaving Israel for Egypt, Vance met for one hour with Dayan where they discussed a number of Dayan’s ideas for solving the current textual problems. On Article IV, Vance reported that Dayan “indicated that he thought a solution could be found, perhaps even with a slight change in the treaty text.” On Article VI, paragraph 2, Dayan said that “he thought they might be able to accept” the Egyptian language of the interpretive note if Israel could add a sentence of its own, though “he did not explain what he had in mind.” Moreover, Dayan also proposed using the Camp David language in the exchange of ambassadors as well as further negotiations to find a solution to the joint letter problem, and stated that the Israelis would draft their own legal opinion on Article VI, paragraph 5. After arriving in Cairo, Vance briefed Sadat on his discussions with the Israelis. (Telegram Secto 14065 from Cairo, December 14; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840153–1476)